It seems that American Christians are all about celebration. In fact, some churches have intentionally chosen the adjective “celebratory” to describe their worship style. Everything has to be upbeat, positive, encouraging (“Positive, Encouraging K-Love…”). After all, life itself is discouraging, depressing, and difficult enough; shouldn’t church be uplifting?
The Bible does indeed encourage us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4). However, true celebration takes into account the gravity of mourning and suffering. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that lamentation is good for us: “The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure” (Ecc. 7:4). And the Apostle Peter reminds us that suffering is crucial to proper rejoicing: “To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:13). To put it another way: Redemption and Consummation ring hollow without a realistic assessment of the Fall.
We want to celebrate exuberantly on Easter Sunday. To that end, we gather first for a somber and melancholy observance of Good Friday, this Friday at 7 PM at Suckau Chapel. Our Good Friday worship gathering will indeed be worshipful… just not in a celebratory way. We’ll reflect on the gravity of sin, the seriousness of God’s wrath, and the dark reality of that beautiful, scandalous night.
The early Christians used to fast between Good Friday and Easter Sunday as a way of identifying with the hopelessness, grief, and pain of the early disciples. Perhaps you would find it worshipful to do the same. Whatever you do to mark the weekend, I hope you’ll not attempt to muster up a joyful spirit on Easter Sunday without embracing the fear, darkness, and lamentation of Good Friday. It’s the biblical path to true, joyful, gospel celebration.